Protea Village marks five years

The golden years are a time to have fun and enjoy life, knowing the future is taken care of.

netanya protea weinberg (photo credit: Courtesy Photo )
netanya protea weinberg
(photo credit: Courtesy Photo )
At the fifth anniversary celebrations of Protea Village, the Lev Hasharon luxury retirement community, residents were presented with an award for volunteering. Raleb Majadlla, chairman of Interior and Environment Affairs presented the award to the residents who volunteer their time with the police force every day to guarantee the safe return of thousands of students from the Dror School. Protea Village opened its doors in August 2000 to its first two couples. Today, it consists of 267 total housing units, which include both apartments and villas, and employs 140 salaried workers. Protea is home to 410 residents aged 69 to 93. New arrivals must be at least 65, retired and physically and mentally able to live independently within the community. South African-born Sylvia and Myron Weinberg, two of the founding residents spoke to Cafe Oleh, recalling that they have been happy there "right from the day we started." The Weinbergs, who made aliya in 1986, are originally from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where Myron worked in the printing and packaging industry, while Sylvia, a housewife, was active in the Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO). After living in Kfar Saba for 14 years, they moved into Protea. Though their reasons for making aliya were in part Zionist, Sylvia says that the move was made much easier by the fact that they already had two children living in Israel. They are a good example of how residents in Protea, despite the fact that they have retired from the daily grind of full-time jobs, find many ways to spend their time constructively. To stay active, Myron frequently volunteers at the ESRA nursery up the road from the village, working with various types of plants, and he also runs the local village pub at Protea, his "baby," which is well-equipped with a billiards table and dartboard. Sylvia runs the Protea library which has over 2,000 novels in multiple languages on the shelves, while daily newspapers laid out on the tables each morning allow the residents to keep track of current events. She also frequently attends lectures and musical programs. "What's most important though, is that although we have the various programs and activities available to us all the time, this apartment is also our home," says Myron. Their current home is a one-bedroom, ground-floor apartment, with a kitchen, living room area, and garden. The Weinbergs compliment the "wonderful staff" of Protea. "You never see anyone without a smile on their face," says Sylvia. Smiles on faces is not the only reason the residents of Protea seem to enjoy living there. Protea's facilities include an indoor heated swimming pool, an exercise room well supplied with treadmills, bicycles, and even weightbenches (so Grandpa can pump some iron!) and a selection of art classes, including painting, ceramics, woodwork and carpentry. There is also a community art studio and a computer room. Courses taught by both the residents themselves and by staff are available in computers, languages and music. Frequent guest speakers visit, presenting on subjects varying from security, business, science to history, geography and psychology. An on-site "college," provides coursework on a daily basis. The cafeteria is open every afternoon, and the "nightlife" includes movies at the cinema hall and concerts at the music hall. Finally, organized day trips take place monthly, and for each season there is a 2-day trip, to various parts of the country. In 1995, as more and more "golden-age" couples were deciding to move into retirement homes early in order to enjoy their lives, Yehoshua Shpoder headed a group of entrepreneurs interested in building a retirement home "with a difference." They turned to the thriving Beit Protea in Herzliya to assist them with the know-how, signing a managment contract with them. Thus Yehiel Nissenholz became general director of the management company that ran both Proteas. Today he works exclusively with Protea Village, and the company has plans to be build more. "My philosophy and that of the staff is to consider ourselves all one big family," says Nissenholz. "The residents are not clients, they live here, and as long as they don't disturb the neighbors, they can do as they please. We provide support and we are here for when they need us. We can be counted on." Because the community is built as a village there is diversity in the choice of accommodations, says Des Massad, assistant manager. Some people have gardens, others have large balconies, and there is variety in the sizes and placing of the apartments. "Most retirement homes basically offer pretty much the same in terms of level of physical conditions and care," says Massad. "The difference is the attitude and the quality of the care. And I believe we are that difference." Activities span from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and she says, and many residents say they don't have enough time for everything they want to do. Massad says she has heard that children coming to visit have complained, jokingly, that their parents don't have time to spend with them. "People come here for fun," says Massad. "They know they are entering the last stage of their lives, and they want quality of life and to enjoy themselves." Approximately 35 percent of Protea Village residents are Anglos, the largest group hailing from South Africa. Others include Europeans who came to Israel after WWII, former South Americans and a small group of native Israelis. Depending on the size of the apartment, anywhere from 42 to 100 square meters, residents pay a "rights of living" deposit of between $160,000 and $320,000 and a monthly maintenance fee between $1,000 and $1,700. The deposit is refundable except for a depreciation of 2.5 to 3 percent per year. Nissenholz, who has 20 years of experience working in geriatrics, mainly in Tel Hashomer hospital, says that in today's world of retirement communities, the lines are often blurred between profit-making and genuine care and services for the residents. In managing Protea, both are achieved. In addition to the apartments, says Massad, there are three different types of units for residents who eventually find themselves unable to continue to live independently. The assisted-care units, the physical nursing care units and the Alzheimer's and related-issues units. "The most important thing about our village is that people think of it as home," says Massad. "They don't have to leave it at any stage." The combination of assistance and support from the staff, while at the same time the ability to live freely and be independent, is a common factor in the praise many of the residents have for Protea. "We try to keep things varied and exciting," says Nissenholz. Boz and Yvette Fehler have the distinction of making aliya straight to Protea. Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, and after living 16 years in London they moved to Israel in 2001, making Protea Village their home. Yvette suffers from medical arthritis. She feels very comfortable at Protea because there is a medical clinic on-site, everywhere has ramps, but most important to her, even though the doctors are there for her if she needs them, she is able to keep her independence, to live in her own apartment, to able to travel everywhere, and to freely live her life. Yvette remains busy by going to French classes, art, choir practice, and other activities. Boz on a typical day wakes up early, exercises, walks around the nearby moshav, swims, and attends classes in woodwork and ceramics. "We don't go out all the time, but there is entertainment every night if we choose it," says Yvette. "Here in Israel it's a family," she says. "In Protea, it's an even closer family, and we feel both safe and protected."